Minnesota Historical Society
Minnesota Territory 1849-1858 Website
Reviewed on June 28, 2013
Items of Interest
The Minnesota Historical Society Minnesota Territory Exhibit is now on display at the Nicollet County Historical Society, St. Peter, Minnesota.
This is one of the few Dakota War products that discuss white settlement in detail.
- Disrespectful – The U.S. is a target. Details about the treaties are given in a way to show how the Indians were cheated. Didn’t the U.S. do anything right?
- Unbalanced – No discussion is given on how the Dakota and Ojibwe obtained their land. They killed members of other tribes and took their land.
- Incorrect – There is confusion as to who “the Dakota” were. Sometimes they were the 4 eastern bands and sometimes they were all 7 bands.
Most Objectionable Statements
Looking at the Territory
Indians owned most of the 166,000 square miles of land at the beginning of Minnesota’s Territory period–and almost none of it at the end.
—Incorrect – “Almost none” is a very small number. The estimate of land owned by the Minnesota Indians in 1858 should be given.
The land once shared by the Dakota (Sioux), Ojibwe (Chippewa), and Ho Chunk (Winnebago) would become Minnesota.
—Incorrect – The last of the Dakota were driven out of northern Minnesota by the Ojibwe. They certainly were not interested in sharing land.
The first white people who came to Minnesota in the 1700s…
—Incorrect – The first whites came to the Minnesota area in the 1600s.
They [Indians] did not think of land as something to be owned.
—Incorrect – Villages claimed and defended their land.
In 1805 the Dakota ceded 100,000 acres of land at the intersection of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.
—Incorrect – This treaty also included cession of land at the mouth of the St. Croix River.
—Incorrect – Lt. Zebulon Pike estimated a total of 100,000 acres. A Senate committee, to which the treaty was referred, estimated 155,520 acres. See Folwell, A History of Minnesota, Vol. I.
—Incorrect – “The Dakota” did not cede this land. As stated elsewhere in this text, only 2 leaders signed the treaty.
Pike valued the land at $200,000, but no specific dollar amount was written in the treaty. At the signing, he gave the Indian leaders gifts whose total value was $200. The U.S. Senate approved the treaty, agreeing to pay only $2,000 for the land.
—Had the Dakota felt cheated, they would driven off the soldiers who came to build Fort Snelling.
Generally, the Indians who signed treaties did not read English. They had to rely on interpreters who were paid by the U.S. government. It is uncertain whether they were aware of the exact terms of the treaties they signed.
—Disrespectful – The Indians were not as dumb as they are being made out to be.
—Incorrect – If it is uncertain whether they were aware, then why mention this?
Minneapolis and St. Paul are located on the land that was ceded in 1805.
—Incorrect – Not all of Minneapolis and St. Paul are on land ceded in 1805.
In 1825 the U.S. government arranged the Prairie du Chien treaty between the Dakota and Ojibwe, as well as the Menominee, Ho Chunk, Sac and Fox, Iowa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa tribes. The treaty set the boundaries of tribal land. After that, it was simpler for the government to negotiate with the Indians for the purchase of their lands.
—Incorrect – The purpose in asking the Indians to agree to boundaries was an attempt to stop warfare between tribes.
The U.S. government’s approach to land boundaries conflicted with Indian ideas about land ownership. “The lands I claim are mine and the nations here know it is not only claimed by us but by our Brothers the Sac and Fox, Menominees, Iowas, Mahas, and Sioux…It belongs as much to one as to the other… -Caramonee, Ho Chunk leader, 1825
—Incorrect – If they were sharing the land, why were they at war with each other?
Later that year , a group of Dakota leaders was brought to Washington, D.C., having been told that they would be negotiating the settlement of their southern boundary. Instead, they were pressured into ceding all their land east of the Mississippi.
—Is this correct? They were not aware a treaty would be negotiated?
The land was valued at $1,600,000, but the U.S. government agreed to pay far less. The Dakota were promised the interest on $300,000, invested at 5 percent.
—This interest payment was to be made forever.
Senate ratification of the  treaty did not occur for months. During that time, the Dakota suffered greatly from a lack of food while waiting for the treaty benefits–some of which were delayed many years.
—Is this correct? Which treaty benefits were delayed many years?
Pressured by traders and threatened with military force, the Dakota were forced to cede nearly all their land in Minnesota and eastern Dakota in the 1851 treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota.
—Incorrect – Many of the Sisseton and Wahpeton were starving. This is why they signed the 1851 Treaty at Traverse des Sioux.
Because the Dakota received only the interest, they never got the full cash benefit of the treaty. The land ceded by the Dakota for about 7.5 cents an acre was resold to settlers at $1.25 per acre–more than 15 times what the U.S. government had paid for it.
—Incorrect – They were to be paid interest for 50 years. This exceeded the cash benefit of the treaties.
—Incorrect – The U.S. had expenses such as surveys and land offices in order to offer the land for sale.
“Fathers, you think it a great deal you are giving for this country…The money comes to us, but will all go to the white men who trade with us.” -Opiyahedaya (Curly Head), 1851
“You can take the money back. We sold our land to you, and you promised to pay us. If you don’t give us the money, I will be glad, and all our people will be glad, for we will have our land back.” -Mazasha (Red Iron), 1852
—Unbalanced – Why did they make these statements? They obviously did not represent all of the Dakota people otherwise the treaties would not have been signed.
At Traverse des Sioux, the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of the Dakota ceded 21 million acres for $1,665,000, or about 7.5 cents an acre.
—Incorrect – The total land ceded by both the 1851Treaties was estimated to be 24,000,000 to 35,000,000 acres. Without knowing the exact total acres sold, it cannot be determined how much was paid per acre.
The treaties of 1851 also called for setting up reservations on both the north and south sides of the Minnesota River. But the U.S. Senate changed the treaties by eliminating the reservation and leaving the Dakota with no place to live…the Dakota could live on the land previously set aside for reservations–until it was needed for white settlement.
—Note that they did not own the reservations.
In June 1858, a month after Minnesota became a state, a group of Dakota traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss their reservation. The Dakota were pressured to cede the lands on the north side of the Minnesota River…When the funds were finally distributed in 1860, most of the $266,880 promised went to pay debts claimed by traders.
—There were 2 treaties in 1858.
—Unbalanced – The author should be praising the U.S. for paying for this land that according to the 1851 Treaties, the Dakota did not own.
—Incorrect – Most of the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute money did go to their traders. Most of the Sisseton and Wahpeton money did NOT go to their traders.
[Map] – The map of Minnesota looked like this when it became a state in 1858.
—Incorrect – What does the dark red represent?
—Incorrect – What does 1855 represent?
—Incorrect – The 1805 Treaty also ceded land at the mouth of the St. Croix River.
—Incorrect – The 1837 Dakota Treaty is not shown.
By 1858 the Dakota had only a small strip of land in Minnesota. Without access to the land upon which they had hunted for generations, they had to rely on treaty payments for their survival. The inadequate money and goods often arrived late. In 1862 the Dakota were starving. This was one cause of the 1862 war between the Dakota and white soldiers. After six weeks, the war ended. Almost 400 Dakota men were tried by a military commission, and 303 were sentenced to die. President Lincoln pardoned many, but 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato. The Dakota were sent to prison in Iowa or to reservations at Crow Creek, in what is now South Dakota, and Santee in Nebraska Territory.
—Incorrect – At a combined 10 miles by 150 miles, I would not call this a small strip.
—Incorrect – They continued to leave the reservations to hunt on former hunting grounds.
—Incorrect – Show that the money and goods were inadequate and that they often arrived late.
—Incorrect – Not all Dakota were starving in 1862. There were also other causes of starvation.
—Incorrect – This was not just a war between the hostile Dakota and the white soldiers. More than 650, mostly civilian, white and mixed-bloods were killed by hostile Dakota.
—Incorrect – Not all of the 38 were Dakota.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were sent to prison or Crow Creek.
—Incorrect – They were at Crow Creek for about 3 years before they were removed to Santee.
In 1863 the Dakota were forced to give up all their remaining land in Minnesota. The U.S. government canceled all treaties made with the Dakota.
—Incorrect – Their land was taken and their treaties cancelled because of the Dakota War of 1862. In the 1900s, Dakota descendants were paid for land and annuities taken in 1863.
Meeting the People
In 1850, census takers made a record of people who lived in the new Minnesota Territory…They counted more than 6,000 people in the Territory’s nine counties. But they did not record the approximately 31,700 Indians who were Minnesota’s first inhabitants…
—Disrespectful – If the Indian communities were sovereign nations, why would they be counted in a U.S. census? I suspect Indians and mixed-bloods living among the whites were counted.
[Here is an uninteresting discussion of information found on census records.]
[Here is an interesting estimate of Indian populations in Minnesota Territory about 1850.]
[Here is an uninteresting discussion of a leather coat owned by Governor Ramsey.]
—Incorrect – The word Metis did not translate to this internet format.
Seeking a Fortune
By the 1840s and 1850s the supply of fur-bearing animals was depleted due to years of overhunting.
—Incorrect – By 1862, the better Dakota hunters were still bringing impressive quantities of furs. The fur trade continued after the Dakota War.
Making a Home
[Here is an uninteresting discussion of the weather experienced by early settlers in their letters.]
[Here is an interesting summary of food eaten in 1857 by a family living in St. Paul.]
[Here is an uninteresting discussion on using an old cookbook to make hot chocolate.]
Tales of the Territory: The Exhibit
Almost all settlers reached Minnesota Territory by steamboat.
—Is this correct? There were many stories of settlers who arrived by covered wagon.
During the territorial years, the Dakota and Ojibwe were compelled to sign away almost all of their homelands for promises that were rarely kept. They often had little understanding of the obscure and poorly translated language of the treaties. Yet, in the end, most felt they had no choice but to sign.
—Disrespectful – These treaties, broken promises, what the Indians understood, and why they signed treaties needs more discussion.
[Here is presented the text from the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux with commentary.]
Every time I review the ratified treaty, and I see Article 3, guaranteeing the Dakota a reservation, simply “stricken out,” the anger and sense of betrayal in me arises. What feelings of shame our leaders must have gone through as the realization of the hoax became apparent. How thoroughly stripped of integrity they must have felt, and what utter sense of defeat they must have experienced.
—Unbalanced – In the 1851 Treaties, the Dakota did not own their reservations. By 1858, the Dakota did own their reservations and they were paid again for their land on the north side of the river.
The language becomes confusing, especially when relaying the amount to be paid to the Dakota. I wonder how concepts of “interest” and “balance” and “principal” were translated into our language and how these concepts were understood by my ancestors. I understand clearly why our elders today remind the young ones to “tell it straight” and the distrust we have for those unwilling or unable to do that.
—Unbalanced – I do not believe the Indian leaders were unintelligent victims as this author makes them out to be.
…When one grasps the extent of the conspiracy to remove the Dakota from our beloved homeland – a design that would make some individuals wealthy, some powerful, and thousands of white settlers landowners–the blame and shame does not rest on the Dakota. It rests on the United States government. It rests on all those who became Minnesotans as it was heading towards statehood.
—Incorrect – Most of the Dakota were removed by the U.S. because hostile Dakota went to war in 1862 and killed more that 650 whites.
—Incorrect – The settlers did not cause this war. The U.S. made the treaties and Indian policy.
—Unbalanced – A more supportive view of the U.S. should also be presented.
—Unbalanced – A more supportive view of those Dakota who favored the treaties should also be presented.
[Here is an interesting photo and discussion of a birch bark canoe.]
[Here is an interesting discussion of the Metis in northeastern Minnesota.]